Hill District, Penguins leaders eye Ohio for Civic ideas
By Tom Fontaine
Published: Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, 10:24 p.m.
Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood is becoming a popular destination for Pittsburghers involved in redeveloping the former Civic Arena site in the Lower Hill District.
Neighborhood leaders went there last month to see how officials are incorporating lower-income housing into a booming redevelopment effort. Hill leaders are pushing the Penguins for more affordable housing on the 28-acre arena site.
Penguins officials are going to Over-the-Rhine this week. The team holds development rights.
“Former Mayor Tom Murphy suggested that we look at Cincinnati as a good model for quality urban development using public-private partnerships,” said Penguins Chief Operating Officer Travis Williams, noting he will travel with team CEO David Morehouse and city and Allegheny County officials.
Marimba Milliones, executive director of the Hill Community Development Corp., said, “There are a considerable number of similarities between the Hill District and Over-the-Rhine.”
Over-the-Rhine is a predominantly black neighborhood that lies between Cincinnati's Central Business District and its medical and university district, just as the mostly black Hill District is between Downtown and Oakland. By the end of the 1990s, Over-the-Rhine became one of the nation's most economically distressed areas, with rampant unemployment, poverty, crime and blight, according to the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp., known as 3CDC.
Cincinnati's city government and corporate leaders established 3CDC in 2003 to spearhead revitalization. The group invested more than $315 million in Over-the-Rhine redevelopment, with $53 million from the city and the rest from 3CDC loan funds, state and federal tax credits and private sources, the agency said.
One notable project is Mercer Commons, a $63 million mixed-use development featuring a mix of affordable and market-rate housing. St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar — hired by the Penguins to oversee residential development on the Civic Arena site — is a developer on the Mercer Commons project, which features 126 rental apartments that include 30 affordable units geared toward lower-income residents.
Affordable housing has been at the heart of debate between the Penguins and some neighborhood groups.
The Penguins intended to submit preliminary land development plans to the city during the second week of December, but postponed those plans because criticism was received during a community meeting in late November.
Residents want at least 30 percent of nearly 1,200 rental units planned to be for lower-income residents, while the team originally proposed 20 percent. Residents also questioned the team's definition of affordable, noting the most inexpensive units cost close to $1,000 a month, based on early estimates.
“We're continuing to have discussions privately with all the parties involved,” Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan said.
The team said it investigated financing options that could allow it to include more affordable housing in its larger, $500 million-plus redevelopment plans.
“We're cheerleaders for people who say there needs to be a certain percentage of affordable housing in any new development. It's the responsible thing to do. Thirty percent sounds great (for the Civic Arena site), and I hope they stick to it,” said Mary Burke Rivers, executive director of the nonprofit Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, who met with the delegation from the Hill last month.
“But it's a challenge all across the country. It's hard to make it a reality because the resources just aren't there. The numbers never seem to work, but when you're committed to it, you find a way,” Rivers said.
At the community meeting in November, McCormack Baron chief operating officer Vince Bennett said, “It's going to be a struggle just to cover 20 percent (affordable housing). But can 30 percent be achievable? Maybe.”
Hill leaders are considering a trip to the Arena District in Columbus, Ohio, a mixed-use development that sprang up around that city's new hockey arena and minor-league baseball stadium.
Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- South Fayette parents express dissatisfaction with handling of bullying
- Obama, Biden to announce $500M for job training grants during W.Pa. visit
- Legal experts question prosecuting South Fayette boy for recording bullies
- South Fayette mother wants case against bullied son to be dropped
- Several Duquesne homes damaged in fire
- Allegheny County employees sticking with Highmark to save money, send message
- For undercover officer who tried to nab Lawrence County flasher, work can be ‘drag’
- Methane emission levels by shale natural gas drillers disputed by EPA, researchers
- Leader guided changes at Robert Morris
- Comedian Gallagher gets his money from North Versailles promoter
- Moon school hiring under fire